David Melding – 2006 Speech on Local Government in Wales

Below is the text of a speech made by David Melding on 11th July 2006. Copies of the speech are in both English and Welsh below.

IN ENGLISH:

I also thank Sir Jeremy Beecham and his team. I apologise that I was not able to attend yesterday’s function due to a more pressing one here in the Assembly, but ‘Beyond Boundaries’ will be regarded as a seminal report. It is certainly challenging for us all, not just the Government.

It is an excellent, ambitious vision that wants public services to be at the centre of life and what it is to be a citizen. I completely agree with that vision and that Wales ought to set itself the ambition of leading smaller countries in delivering first-class public services.

Sir Jeremy Beecham says that we need to go further and faster. However, I do not think that this is a cosy report; in a subtle way, it is quite critical of many things that are done at present.

That is not just against this Government; it is also against aspects of the health service and local government, as well as performance from many years ago, no doubt. I think that we need to meet some of the key issues that are raised.

The first issue that I want to mention is that data and key performance measures have to be improved. I have made the point several times in the Chamber that social services data are often weak, and you cannot really manage, scrutinise, and be confident that you are improving services unless you have effective data, which the public can also understand, and which people can be held to account on.

I would like a response—perhaps not now, as it is only 24 hours since it was published—on the recommendation that, presumably, the First Minister, or, indeed, the Finance Minister, makes an annual statement on public service performance. That would be a useful debate to have annually.

Dai Lloyd made the point on improving scrutiny, and I shall not develop his points, but I will say that, in order to scrutinise effectively, you need support and training.

In the Assembly, that means training for Assembly Members on how to look at and track a budget and legislation, and all sorts of things, but also at local government level.

I hope that the start that has been made at the WLGA—as well as at the Assembly Government, in fairness—to improve scrutiny, training and performance in local government goes on, but also that we do it ourselves in the Assembly.

I commend the call for a mixed economy in delivering public services. It is not about privatising services; private companies, voluntary bodies, and, of course, the state sector can all deliver public services.

There is no problem with that—we do not need to construct lots of ideological walls to prevent that mixed economy. The joint reviews often pointed to the fact that councils had not succeeded well in creating a mixed economy for care.

The call for pooled sovereignty as a model for joint working is pushing us, and saying, ‘Look, the voluntary approach is not working well, or at least not fast enough’. We will have to look at this, as well as at more regional services, which should be on our agenda.

There were one or two really quite surprising things, such as whether we should experiment with different models, such as care trusts.

That has been on the agenda in England, though I do not think that it has seriously been a runner in the Assembly; it is only my own party that has ever raised it as an issue, but perhaps we should look at that in more detail.

Finally, I agree that standards should be broad rather than extremely detailed, and we need to allow earned autonomy in the response to local need, which means that you can deliver a broad standard, but if you are told to deliver too many small targets, local flexibility is lost.

However, we must remember that some areas of public services, such as children’s services, are still in need of considerable improvement, and any inspection regime will have to be much more rigorous for much longer, until we are confident that the general service levels are high enough.

 

IN WELSH:

Yr wyf innau hefyd yn diolch i Syr Jeremy Beecham a’i dîm. Ymddiheuraf na allwn fod yn bresennol yn y digwyddiad ddoe gan fod gennyf ddigwyddiad pwysicach yma yn y Cynulliad, ond ystyrir ‘Ar Draws Ffiniau’ yn adroddiad arloesol.

Mae’n sicr yn gosod her i bob un ohonom, nid dim ond y Llywodraeth. Mae’n weledigaeth ardderchog, uchelgeisiol sydd am weld gwasanaethau cyhoeddus wrth galon bywyd a’r hyn y mae’n ei olygu i fod yn ddinesydd. Cytunaf yn llwyr â’r weledigaeth honno ac y dylai arwain gwledydd llai i ddarparu gwasanaethau cyhoeddus o’r radd flaenaf fod yn uchelgais i Gymru.

Dywed Syr Jeremy Beecham fod angen inni fynd ymhellach ac yn gynt. Fodd bynnag, ni chredaf fod hwn yn adroddiad cysurus; mewn ffordd gynnil, mae’n eithaf beirniadol o nifer o bethau a wneir ar hyn o bryd.

Nid dim ond yn erbyn y Llywodraeth hon y mae hynny; mae hefyd yn erbyn agweddau ar y gwasanaeth iechyd a llywodraeth leol, yn ogystal â pherfformiad o nifer o flynyddoedd yn ôl, yn ddiau. Credaf fod angen i ni ddiwallu rhai o’r prif faterion a godir.

Y mater cyntaf y carwn ei grybwyll yw bod yn rhaid gwella mesurau perfformiad allweddol a data. Yr wyf wedi codi’r pwynt hwn sawl tro yn y Siambr, bod data gwasanaethau cymdeithasol yn aml yn wan, ac na allwch reoli, craffu na theimlo’n hyderus eich bod yn gwella gwasanaethau oni bai fod gennych ddata effeithiol, y gall y cyhoedd ei ddeall hefyd, ac y gellir dal pobl i gyfrif yn ei gylch.

Hoffwn ymateb—nid yn awr efallai, gan mai dim ond 24 awr sydd wedi mynd heibio ers ei gyhoeddi—ar yr argymhelliad i’r Prif Weinidog yn ôl pob tebyg, neu, yn wir, y Gweinidog Cyllid, roi datganiad blynyddol ar berfformiad gwasanaethau cyhoeddus. Byddai honno’n ddadl flynyddol ddefnyddiol.

Gwnaeth Dai Lloyd y pwynt am wella craffu, ac ni ddatblygaf ei bwyntiau, ond dywedaf, er mwyn craffu’n effeithiol, fod angen cefnogaeth a hyfforddiant arnoch.

Yn y Cynulliad, mae hynny’n golygu hyfforddiant ar gyfer Aelodau’r Cynulliad ynghylch sut i edrych ar gyllideb a deddfwriaeth a’u holrhain, a phob math o bethau, ond hefyd ar lefel llywodraeth leol.

Gobeithiaf fod camau cyntaf CLlLC—ynghyd â Llywodraeth y Cynulliad i fod yn deg—i wella craffu, hyfforddiant a pherfformiad mewn llywodraeth leol yn parhau, ond ein bod hefyd yn gwneud hyn ein hunain yn y Cynulliad.

Yr wyf yn canmol yr alwad am economi gymysg o ran darparu gwasanaethau cyhoeddus. Nid yw hyn yn ymwneud â phreifateiddio gwasanaethau; gall cwmnïau preifat, cyrff gwirfoddol, ac, wrth gwrs, sector y wladwriaeth, un ac oll, ddarparu gwasanaethau cyhoeddus.

Nid oes problem gyda hynny—nid oes angen inni godi nifer o waliau ideolegol i rwystro’r economi gymysg honno. Roedd yr adolygiadau ar y cyd yn aml yn tynnu sylw at y ffaith nad oedd cynghorau wedi llwyddo’n dda i greu economi gymysg ar gyfer gofal.

Mae galw am sofraniaeth wedi’i chronni fel model ar gyfer cydweithio yn ein gwthio, ac yn dweud, ‘Edrychwch, nid yw’r dull gwirfoddol yn gweithio’n dda, neu o leiaf yn ddigon cyflym’. Bydd yn rhaid inni edrych ar hyn, yn ogystal ag ar wasanaethau mwy rhanbarthol, a ddylai fod ar ein hagenda.

Ceir ambell beth a’m synnodd, megis a ddylem arbrofi gyda modelau gwahanol, fel ymddiriedolaethau gofal.

Bu hynny ar yr agenda yn Lloegr, er nad wyf yn credu iddo gael ei ystyried yn ddifrifol yn y Cynulliad; dim ond fy mhlaid i sydd wedi codi hyn fel mater perthnasol erioed, ond efallai y dylem edrych yn fanylach ar hynny.

Yn olaf, cytunaf y dylai safonau fod yn eang yn hytrach nag yn arbennig o fanwl, ac mae angen i ni ganiatáu ymreolaeth wedi’i hennill yn yr ymateb i angen lleol, sy’n golygu y gallwch ddarparu safon eang, ond os dywedir wrthych ddarparu gormod o dargedau bach, collir hyblygrwydd lleol.

Fodd bynnag, rhaid inni gofio bod rhai meysydd mewn gwasanaethau cyhoeddus, fel gwasanaethau plant, dal angen cael eu gwella’n sylweddol, a bydd yn rhaid i unrhyw drefn ymchwilio fod yn llawer mwy cadarn am gyfnod hwy o lawer, nes y byddwn yn hyderus bod y lefelau gwasanaethau cyffredinol yn ddigon uchel.